Guide to setting up an Buddhist Altar


22/08/2021 |    

Master Jun Hong Lu’s
Public Talk
Sydney, Australia
5 September 2010

When paying respect to the Buddhas, offering flowers will improve your appearance, and offering oil is good for our eyesight and for gaining wisdom. Some wise people suggest children spend their pocket money in buying a bottle of oil as an offering to the Bodhisattva and to pray for more wisdom. Offering water can ease and calm our mind while also helping us eliminate greed as water doesn’t cost anything. Many people are even attached to the offerings made to Bodhisattva. A novice Buddhist practitioner will feel secure once they offer water to Bodhisattvas. Their mind will be as pure as water. Therefore, if one prays for a sense of security, it’s best to offer water. The water offered on the altar needs to be changed every day. Furthermore, offering fruit can help you to achieve what you wish at a sooner time if you pray for something specific. For example, if you pray for a smooth career path or job security, offering fruit such as oranges and apples could speed things up, so you’ll get the outcome sooner. Offering fruit makes the wishes of a kind-hearted person come true sooner. For evil people, even though they make fruit offerings, karmic retributions come due earlier, too. The severity of the karmic retributions would be reduced if they take place earlier, which is better than suffering harsh retributions at a later stage. This is the law of cause and effect.



5.2.1 About Bodhisattva’s images


<Bodhisattva’s images of Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door>

Sizes of Bodhisattva’s images

Length * width (cm)

(Above is for reference only. Actual sizes might differ.)


Bodhisattva’s images that are yet to be placed on an altar need to be wrapped with red cloth and placed on a clean surface. Avoid placing them on stools or chairs.

Wenda20140413B 18:17
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: A practitioner plans to set up an altar in her new home. She hasn’t moved yet, so she has been placing the Bodhisattva’s image on a chair. Is this okay?

Master Lu: No! Chairs are for people to sit on. The image needs to be placed on a clean surface such as a table. Never place it on chairs.

Caller: I see. Should she keep the image flat?

Master Lu: Yes. Chairs are for people to sit on. It’s inappropriate to place Bodhisattva’s images on it. This is disrespectful. It’s not okay even if it’s a brand new chair.

Caller: Is it okay to place the image in a red bag and keep it flat without wrapping it with red cloth?

Master Lu: It’s best to wrap it.


If the altar is small, the images of Bodhisattva can be placed close together or even overlap with each other

Wenda20130510 10:01
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: I also have the images of Tai Sui Bodhisattva and Nanjing Bodhisattva, but the altar is too small to fit Guan Di Bodhisattva’s image on it. If I only have the images of Tai Sui Bodhisattva and Nanjing Bodhisattva, how should I position them on the sides of Guan Yin Bodhisattva?

Master Lu: These images can slightly overlap each other. It’s okay for you to position them the same way as you normally see them and place them close to each other.

Caller: As long as the characters of Tai Sui Bodhisattva are visible right? (Yes). I’ll place the images of Nanjing Bodhisattva and Tai Sui Bodhisattva on the left side of Guan Yin Bodhisattva.

Master Lu: You can take a picture of Guan Di Bodhisattva, fix it in a smaller frame and place it in front of Guan Yin Bodhisattva. It’s okay to overlap Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s image by a little.

Caller: Okay, so it’s best to put all of the images on the altar.

Master Lu: Yes, that would be great.


Don’t use Bodhisattva’s images as wall decoration. You need to recite specific sutras and mantras to invite them down

Wenda20120701B 24:46
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: A practitioner has hung a decoration with characters “Amitabha Buddha” on the wall of the stairway. She also hung Bodhisattva images, scriptures and feng shui images on both inner and outer walls as decoration. She has never offered incense. Now she has started to practise Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door and wants to invite them down. What does she need to do?

Master Lu: Recite the Great Compassion Mantra 7 times, the Heart Sutra 7 times and the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance 7 times.

Caller: Does this apply to all similar situations like this one?

Master Lu: Yes. The practitioners all know about this “Triple Sevens”. You should keep it in mind. This is a very basic way to handle situations like this. It’s best to offer 7 Little Houses to the karmic creditors of the house as well.


Do not pay respect to embroidered images of Bodhisattva

Excerpt from Master Jun Hong Lu’s Q&A Session 66
18 September 2014

Don’t pray to images that are embroidered. Invite them down if they are placed on the altar. It is disrespectful to embroider an image of a Bodhisattva. It is not appropriate to pay respect to an image like this.


<Framing of the Bodhisattva’s image>

The frame can be made of wood, aluminium alloy or polymer materials. Avoid using silver-coloured frames

Wenda20160115 11:26
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: Master, I can see that the frames used for Bodhisattva’s images are usually made of wood and painted gold. Is it okay if the frames are made of aluminium alloy?

Master Lu: Yes, both are okay but don’t use silver-coloured frames.


It is best to frame Bodhisattva’s images ourselves

Wenda20120527B 11:00
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: I placed an image of Guan Yin Bodhisattva of Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door on my altar. I visited Hong Kong recently and brought home a bigger image. The old frame was too small, so I took the image to a mounting service. I specifically requested them not to place the image in an upright position. When I went back to collect it, the image was in an upright position. After I put it on the altar, things didn’t go well for me. My car broke down on my way to perform life liberation, and there was a snake that blocked my way. I also felt like the image was occupied by other spirits.

Master Lu: This is troublesome. There are things best not to ask other people to do for you. You can simply keep the image at home. It’s best to measure the size and frame Bodhisattva’s image by yourself. Some people’s hands are defiled. They may also have heavy karmic debts. This is no good. You need to offer 13 Little Houses to the spirits occupying the image and say, “May the Guan Yin Bodhisattva of Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door that have been protecting me enter the sacred image offered by me.” This should solve the problem.


5.2.2. About Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s statues


Statue sizes (Porcelain statues of Guan Yin Bodhisattva of Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door )

Height (cm)

Small, Medium, Large

Side View, Inside

Packaging (as above)

Do not turn the case upside down

Please use the email below should you wish to request a porcelain statue:

The staff of Guan Yin Citta will make arrangements accordingly.


Do not pay respect to broken or cracked statues of Guan Yin Bodhisattva

Wenda20140815 07:55
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: Hello Master, what if the statue of Guan Yin Bodhisattva has quite a few broken fingers?

Master Lu: Wrap the statue and replace it with a new one. If the fingers are broken, you can’t keep praying to it.

Caller: Okay, what should I do?

Master Lu: You need to recite the Great Compassion Mantra 7 times, the Heart Sutra 7 times and the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance 49 times. Before reciting, say “Thank you XXX Buddha or Bodhisattva for helping me <your full name> and my family in the past.  Thank you XXX Buddha or Bodhisattva. Thank you XXX Buddha or Bodhisattva”.  You must not say, “Please come down from the altar, XXX Buddha or Bodhisattva”.

Caller: How about Little Houses?

Master Lu: Yes, 21 Little Houses.

Caller: Should I take it to the temple?

Master Lu: Yes.


Wenda20130421B 01:48
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: I was advised by the Secretariat at Master’s Dharma convention in Bangkok that a cracked statue cannot be placed on the altar. It needs to be invited down. Is that right?

Master Lu: Yes, that’s right.

Caller: How long should I keep it before taking it to the temple?

Master Lu: No need to keep it. After reciting scriptures, you can invite it down from the altar and take it to the temple. It is not respectful to pray to a Bodhisattva’s statue with a missing hand.


Choose a statue that you feel connected to

Buddhism: Your Questions Answered Q 93
(An excerpt)

Question: Dear Master Lu, how do we invite the statues or images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to the Buddhist altar in our homes? How can we bless the statues or images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on our own? Is there anything we should take note of afterwards?

Answer: You can go to a Buddhist shop to select a statue or image of Guan Yin Bodhisattva. If you favour a particular statue or image, or if you feel that the statue or image of Bodhisattva is smiling at you, then you should select that statue or image. Otherwise, you can also print the image of Guan Yin Bodhisattva of the Guan Yin Citta Centre in colour and frame it.


Do not treat Bodhisattva’s statue as artwork or decoration

Wenda20120622 16:15
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Caller: In my daughter’s bedroom, there’s a wooden statue of Guan Yin Bodhisattva with a pair of Heavenly Children on the side. The statue was given to me by a temple.

Master Lu: Have you offered incense?

Caller: No.

Master Lu: That’s no good. You need to wrap the statue and invite it down. Never treat Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s statue as a decoration, otherwise, trouble will come.

Caller: Do I need to recite scriptures?

Master Lu: “Triple Sevens”

Caller: So I recite Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance 7 times, Great Compassion Mantra 7 times and the Heart Sutra 7 times then wrap the statue with red cloth and take it to the temple, right?

Master Lu: Yes.

[Note: Under some circumstances, you may need to offer Little Houses as well. Once spirits have entered the statue, Little Houses must be offered to the karmic creditors of the house before inviting the statue to come down.]


<Materials of Bodhisattva statues>

It’s not advisable for the statues to be transparent

Wenda20121230A 04:52
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Master Lu: Transparent materials are not suitable for statues. Porcelain would be better. Many people use transparent statues which easily attract spirits. That’s no good. When I see a transparent statue of a Bodhisattva, I can often find spirits inside it so I would get worried. Once you know about it, you would be unsure whether or not to make offerings to it.

Caller: Why do transparent materials attract spirits?

Master Lu: As spirits are transparent, too, they tend to cling onto transparent materials.


It’s not advisable for the statues to be made of marble

Wenda20140704 01:15:06
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Master Lu: What are stones? Stones are found underground. What are marble stones? Marble stones is considered to have the Yin energy and they are often used as floor tiles. It’s not good to use them to make Bodhisattva statues.

Caller: Yes, a practitioner is concerned because the statue is hollow.

Master Lu: If it is hollow, Bodhisattva can still enter the statue. If it is solid, Bodhisattva isn’t willing to enter the statue.

Caller: I see. He is concerned that a hollow statue would attract spirits.

Master Lu: If he doesn’t practise diligently, Bodhisattvas won’t visit. Therefore, it would attract other spirits. If the statue is made of marble and if the practitioner isn’t diligent, the statue would be occupied by a lot of Yin energy.

Caller: Okay, I understand.


It’s not advisable to put a statue made of copper on the altar. Gold, silver, copper, iron and tin all carry the Yin energy

Wenda20160108 05:12
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Master Lu: A copper statue will look dark and old. It is best not to put a statue like this on the altar. Copper, iron and stones carry the Yin energy.

Caller: Yes, what should I do?

Master Lu: Wrap it and give it to the temple.

Caller: I learnt that it’s best not to pray to a Bodhisattva’s statue made of copper. I had one a few years ago. Since then, our family has encountered many problems. A lot of misfortunes happened to my child.

Master Lu: Now you know why. Your home is occupied by spirits. It might not be a Bodhisattva entering the copper statue, the spirits could also occupy these statues.

Caller: I see. My incense burner is golden-coloured. That’s not good, right?

Master Lu: It would have strong Yin energy. Gold, silver, copper, iron and tin all carry the Yin energy. Keep in mind that if you sense sharp coldness from touching certain materials, they most likely carry the Yin energy.


<Stereometric Bodhisattva statues have more energy than images>

A blessed Bodhisattva statue of Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door looks glazing gold

Wenda20160226 30:47
(Master Jun Hong Lu’s call-in radio program)
An Excerpt

Glaze is from Heaven. It’s a type of energy and magnetic field from Bodhisattva. Glaze in Heaven can be viewed as a type of liquid in the Human Realm. Pure water is clean and limpid. (Yes.) Water in Heaven is actually glaze. The pure water that Bodhisattva blesses you with from the vase is glaze.

What is glazing gold? It’s a high-class liquid with strong energy. The ordinary class is called glaze water. Glaze water is a kind of liquid energy in Heaven. Once Bodhisattva blesses you with glaze water, you will feel naturally relieved. You will recover and feel liberated. For example, if your liver isn’t functioning well, it will recover after Bodhisattva blesses you with glaze water from the vase. That’s why it’s called liver function, right? (Yes.) For kidney function, after drinking Great Compassion Water with glaze, your kidney function will return to normal. It helps to kill harmful bacteria. Like in the movies we watch, a lot of injured people recover after energy is injected in their body. When someone’s hand is injured, at first it would staunch the bleeding, then the wound would gradually heal. This is a type of recovery.

But Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s glazing gold contains immense amount of energy. Why is glazing gold injected? The statues of Guan Yin Bodhisattva you bring home contain very strong energy. Do you understand? These stereometric Bodhisattva statues are definitely better than images. They absorb energy easily, whereas an image can only receive a little energy. Why is it the spirits we see is like a thin slice? (Yes.) Spirits are transparent. They are thin slices; therefore, they can only absorb Yin energy. Bodhisattvas carry a great deal of energy. Such energy expands. Therefore, stereometric Bodhisattva statues can be filled with positive energy easily.


Sizes of Bodhisattva’s images and statues

(This is for reference only. The illustrations below are for 1-metre-long altars.)


Basics for an altar

Vegetable oil – For oil lamps. Olive oil, canola oil, corn oil, lotus flower oil, etc. are all acceptable.

Lamp wick base – For oil lamps

Cotton string – Can be used as lamp wicks on oil lamps

Lamp wicks – Used together with a lamp wick base

Candle extinguisher – For putting out the oil lamp

Incense ash flattener – to flatten and level the incense ash in the burner

Oil lamp container (for each Bodhisattva on the altar) – Can be used as oil lamps

Tweezers – To remove incense stick leftovers from the incense burner and to fix the lamp wicks

Incense ash catcher (Optional) – To be placed on top of an incense burner to prevent ashes falling on the altar

Incense burner (for each Bodhisattva on the altar)

Sandalwood – Used as grand incense

Millet/rice or incense ashes – Used as support for incense sticks in the incense burner

Fruit trays– For fruit offerings

Sandalwood incense sticks – Incense should be made of sandalwood. Do not use incense with bamboo sticks at the bottom. Do not use cracked incense sticks.

Water cups (for each Bodhisattva) – Used for water offerings. Best to use porcelain cups.

Lighter – Best to use a lighter with a long handle

Vases (in pairs) – for flower offerings

The above images of vases, oil lamps, water cups and fruit trays are for references only. There are many different designs but as long as there aren’t any scriptures, animal or human figures on them, they are suitable for use.